I have been re-reading the Teachings of Ajahn Chah. Such a delight and food for one's practice . . . I was especially interested in what he had to say about aging and mindfulness practice. A common view is that one should undertake mindfulness at a young age while one's health is still good. Ajahn Chah takes another stance, that I find worth sharing for the many older folks interested in taking up mindfulness practice. Here are some excerpts:
Older persons, who often can’t sit very well, can contemplate especially well and practice concentration easily; they too can develop a lot of wisdom. How is it that they can develop wisdom? Everything is rousing them. When they open their eyes, they don’t see things as clearly as they used to. Their teeth give them trouble and fall out. Their bodies ache most of the time. Just that is the place of study. So really, meditation is easy for old folks. Meditation is hard for youngsters. Their teeth are strong, so they can enjoy their food. They sleep soundly. Their faculties are intact and the world is fun and exciting to them, so they get deluded in a big way. For the old ones, when they chew on something hard they’re soon in pain. [...] When they open their eyes their sight is fuzzy. In the morning their backs ache. In the evening their legs hurt. That’s it! This is really an excellent subject to study. Some of you older people will say you can’t meditate. What do you want to meditate on? Who will you learn meditation from? This is seeing the body in the body and sensation in sensation. Are you seeing these or are you running away? Saying you can’t practice because you’re too old is only due to wrong understanding. The question is, are things clear to you? Elderly persons have a lot of thinking, a lot of sensation, a lot of discomfort and pain. Everything appears! If they meditate, they can really testify to it. So I say that meditation is easy for old folks. They can do it best. [...] You have to see it within yourself. When you sit, it’s true; when you stand up, it’s true; when you walk, it’s true. Everything is a hassle, everything is presenting obstacles – and everything is teaching you. Isn’t this so? Can you just get up and walk away so easily now? When you stand up, it’s “Oy!” Or haven’t you noticed? And it’s “Oy!” when you walk. It’s prodding you. When you’re young you can just stand up and walk, going on your way. But you don’t really know anything. When you’re old, every time you stand up it’s “Oy!” Isn’t that what you say? “Oy! Oy!” Every time you move, you learn something. So how can you say it’s difficult to meditate? Where else is there to look? It’s all correct.
So now, you have no excuse!